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FanSided Turns to Emojis to Help Differentiate NBA Coverage

FanSided - Durbin

(*MKTG is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Bleacher Report, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo!, The Athletic, local newspapers, and more. When it comes to basketball coverage, specifically the NBA, there are a bevy of options for consumers to choose from.

To stand out in today’s crowded media environment, platforms like FanSided are taking a more visual approach to their content.

This year, as part of its coverage in the run-up to the NBA season, FanSided teamed up with MKTG to create what the company called “Stepmojis.” The brainchild of Elliot Gerard, MKTG’s creative director, the design and thought process came from the conversational nature of the pieces that were written by Jared Dubin for the platform.

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“Jared’s articles had a smooth conversational vibe, almost like he was conversing with the readers and/or players themselves,” said Gerard. “That made me imagine a text message chain where the content of the articles were being condensed into quick snippets. What better way to do this than through emojis?”

The articles that Gerard is referencing were all long-form in nature, challenging him with delivering assets that added to the piece, without making it more robust than it already was.

With five billion emojis sent every day, the opportunity to put their own twist on something that has become part of how most of the population communicates intrigued Gerard, Dubin, and Ian Levy, FanSided’s senior NBA editor.

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Being able to integrate the simple assets into the stories not only allowed for a more streamlined experience, but made Levy’s life that much easier.

“The marketplace is so crowded right now in terms of thoughtful and well-done basketball analysis, that differentiating yourself visually is one of the few ways to really make yourself stand out, especially for new site visitors or those with a short attention span,” Levy said. “We only have so much flexibility in terms of adapting our site layout, so incredible graphics like these help bring people in on social and also add value to the written content for people who are moving through our site.”

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Fighting for mindshare in the sports media landscape can be tough, and Durbin knows that to catch the attention of a fan quickly, the assets have to either provide a visual appeal not found elsewhere or create that thumb-stopping effect that all publishers and companies hope for.

With the “Stepmojis,” he got just that.

“It’s pretty important. I think the words carry the day a lot of the time but if there is something that differentiates the work on the surface, it can bring in new readers that may not have checked it out before.”

Beyond the content on the website, the “Stepmojis” also helped FanSided spur growth and conversation on its NBA Instagram, which at the time was “fairly new.”

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Not having the resources of, say, an ESPN, Levy notes that FanSided has to get creative in order to break through the noise. All of this starts with its written content and builds from there.

“We’ve been working hard over the past few years to elevate and differentiate our NBA content,” he said. “There are so many places that fans can go for good writing and thoughtful analysis. Standing out with creative angles and creative execution has been a huge part of our growth and one of the ways we’re continuing to try and stand out with.”

(*MKTG is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)